Eyes are watching Marguerite on the Amur River

The known reports Marguerite sent to the U.S. intelligence agencies while in Asia mostly pertain to economic matters. After spending two months in Tokyo, she traveled north to the Sakhalin Island, a territory rich in oil and coal reserves that was claimed by both Japan and Russia.


Khabarovsk Bridge over the Amur River in Siberia n 1916, a few years before Marguerite Harrison traveled to the area.

After visiting the island, Marguerite sailed with American military attaché Lt. Col. Charles Burnett across De Castries Bay to the Siberian mainland. Within a few days, they were joined by two more Americans with secret service connections—Major Maj. Philip Faymonville, a military observer, and Edward Thomas, the vice consul at Chita in the Far Eastern Republic. The presence of the group created a stir among the natives who believed the Americans were coming to liberate them from the Japanese.

 For her part, Marguerite was thrilled to be back in territory that had once been part of Russia. “I had been homesick for the sound of Russian voices, for the broad sweep of the Russian wheat fields, for the homey little villages with their wooden izbas, for the childlike, lovable people with whom I had lived through so much,” she recalled.

Marguerite and the American officials sailed to Nikolaevsk  where they parted company. While the men sailed to Japan, Marguerite made arrangements to sail down the Amur River to Khabarovsk, where she would board the Trans-Siberian Railroad and journey to Vladivostok, the Pacific port city then under the control of the White Army.

In the first leg of the journey, she traveled in a paddle-wheel steamer where she encountered a mysterious ticket comptroller who appeared to be too educated for his position. He told her he had served in the Russian Imperial Army during World War I and had briefly fought with the White brigades in Siberia before joining the Red Army. The man was an excellent singer, and in the evenings, Marguerite accompanied him, playing on an aging piano in the ship’s saloon. One night, she confided to him that she had been in prison in Moscow.

His reply surprised her. “I knew it all along,” he said. “It is our business to know everything.”

 Marguerite suddenly realized Cheka’s spies reached to the farthest corners of the former Russian empire.

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